Self-help Techniques for Coping with Mental Illness
Have you ever wondered if art therapy is for you? Does this scenario sound like you?
As she sat in this lounge on her first day of treatment, she immersed her mind in the activity of the room, the busy movement of the others as they sat down and the constant buzz of conversation intertwined to create a blanket of noise and confusion that enveloped her uncomfortably.
Instead of looking for the next exit, she pulled out a small collection of pencils and an empty drawing book from her pocket. As the dialogue of the others around her intensified, she tried to direct her thoughts inward.
Day after day and week after week she returned to this day room. Group therapy and empowerment sessions, mindfulness training and goal setting, learning skills to overcome her diagnosis accompanied her.
As time went by, the collection of drawings grew, becoming more symbolic and significant with each of them, and the work of art had strengthened their confidence and was soon to be shared with others in the program.
With increasing self-confidence, she found a new perspective on life through art as a coping mechanism.
How can art therapy deal with mental illness?
# 1: With art, there is no single answer
Art is not about being right; it is about being honest and truthful. Be authentic in your self-expression and see what is inside of you.
# 2: Using art to speak a visual language
You are not limited to words to express your feelings. You can use color, movement, and design to say what is going on internally. Art also allows you to communicate your thoughts when words are not available.
# 3: Art doesn’t have to be an expensive initiation
All markers, crayons and paper can do the trick. These supplies are readily available at any discount store, craft or hobby retailer, or even in the local dollar store.
# 4: Art therapy can release negative energy physically
You can release your frustration, anger, or stress during the movement of creating art. The process of applying a medium to paper is an interactive process and you have the opportunity to use your fine and coarse motor skills.
It is a means to take time off, a time in which your thoughts can become negative without any formal activity being introduced to distract your mind. Finding satisfying and successful activities to replenish the time can be a great advantage for those who have a mental health diagnosis.
# 5: Art therapy does not require formal training
Your art is for yourself and for no one else. Technique is not important, the use of materials is not important, and the quality of the finished product is not important. It is important that you have the ability to express emotions positively.
# 6: Art is easily accessible
Draw on a napkin in a restaurant or carry a small notepad in your handbag. If you are technologically savvy, you can even find apps on your phone. You can create art wherever you are! More importantly, you can create art at the very moment you experience heightened emotions, which makes the art in the message that is shared more precise.
For those of you who haven’t thought about using art yet, perhaps it’s time to start. Pull out a few pencils, find a piece of paper and find a comfortable place to start. You’re not alone. Art is a journey, and like any journey, it begins with a single step.
Be courageous, begin to draw, and remain spiritually healthy!
As always, reach out to CHI Health Behavioral Care for more questions.
Tracy Glantz, MS, is an Educational Therapist at CHI Health.